Monday, October 4, 2010

A Letter to Jess Jackson

Dear Mr. Jackson,

Over the last three or so years I have been treated to some of racing's greatest thrills, and they are all thanks to you. They are thanks to you and your willingness to campaign your great horses like champions. Curlin I fell in love with as soon as I saw the replays of his Rebel and Arkansas Derby. I watched in awe, saying to myself now that horse will be a great horse. I backed him all through the Triple Crown and even after his Haskell Invitational, where it was obvious he was just shaking off the rust. You ran him in the Gold Cup against the best older male and another of my favorites, Lawyer Ron. His Classic that year was a thing of beauty, and I still remember the call, "and it's Curlin POWER HOUSING home in an absolutely stylish performance!"

The year after that it was all fun. I loved how he crushed the World Cup field with such ease then came back here to win the Stephen Foster just as easily. You showed just how much a sportsman you were that year. You tried him on turf, and then even after Big Brown was prevented from attending the Classic, you took Curlin to California anyway, even though the surface was new and untested at Santa Anita.

I was sorry Curlin had to retire on that losing note, but he had nothing more to prove and he was a tired horse by the end of that year. After his retirement I thought I was lost, until Rachel Alexandra blew me away in the Kentucky Oaks. Her previous owner had said that he would not race Rachel against males, and after that performance I thought, what a waste, she would be able to handle them so easily. Then you bought her and put together a campaign for the ages. My favorite performance of hers was not the Oaks or the Mother Goose, where she dazzled us with speed and ease. It was not her Woodward, which was won on her pure heart and determination. No, my favorite performance was her Haskell. Speed, beauty, and pure brilliance were all on display, and in my opinion it was her crowning moment.

After a season of dominance, we could only hope she would return the same. A bit of a rush job, to give fans the Zenyatta vs Rachel Alexandra showdown they wanted, delayed that. Her loss in the La Troienne was to be expected, if you cross the New Orleans Ladies out, which many of us did, the La Troienne was her first real race back, and was needed.

After those two heart breakers, she wowed us again. She may not have been perfect, obviously drifting out through the stretch, but in the Fleur de Lis she won by 10.5 easy lengths. The Lady's Secret wasn't the blowout many of us expected, but then again on a day that had a heat index of 105 degrees, who could blame Calvin for wrapping her up as soon as he gained the lead?

After these two races, all Rachel fans were so confident that she would win the Personal Ensign Handicap. She was working better than ever before, had two strong wins under her belt, and seemed well on her way to regaining her 2009 form. It was a huge let-down when she dueled for over a mile with Life at Ten, putting her away on the far turn, only to get caught in the final strides by Persistently.

That loss hurt, but after finding out facts like no horse since 2006 had been able to take a grade one, 10-furlong race wire-to-wire at Saratoga, it lessened the blow. To know the track has been insanely deep and tiring over the last few years meant that for her to last as long as she did in her first try over 10 furlongs, was unreal. It gave me and countless others confidence that the Personal Ensign set her up for a HUGE performance in her next possible start.

After a series of strong works, two bullet moves, our hopes were high. She was looking again like a monster. Many were convinced that after her final work she would decimate the Beldame field. There were those, like me, who even thought she could win the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Then you dashed all of our hopes and expectations in one swift sentence, that Rachel had been retired.

After that, not just me, but many lost a lot of respect for you. Part of me doubts Steve, Dominic, or Calvin actually knew you were going to retire her. Steve was not training Rachel like a horse he knew had a good chance of a soon-to-be retirement, he was training her like she was going to race, and she was looking like she was ready not only to race, but to return to her form of 2009.

The sting of her retirement smarted even more as we watched the two races she could've potentially been in this weekend. The horse she beat by 10.5 lengths in her final start WON the Beldame and did it with ease. Rachel had run Life at Ten into the ground last time, and seeing her return to win only strengthens the belief that Rachel not only would've won, but she would've crushed the field. The Gold Cup unfolded as I would've predicted, but even better. Rachel would've run away with that race and demolished Haynesfield. If he could win off of fractions like that, running even Blame off his feet, Rachel would've done it ten times better.

Mr. Jackson, for two years you were the best thing that ever happened to racing. You were a sportsman, not afraid to take on the best, even if it meant there would be a possibility of losing. You brought back both Curlin and Rachel as four year olds. You even kept faith in Rachel after she lost her first two starts this season. However, the last move you made, the one that will be remembered most, was a duck. Perhaps you were scared that Rachel, despite training like a monster and having the bottom Personal Ensign provided her, might not win.

If you were not scared, and there was some underlying reason like a nagging injury that provoked her retirement, we as her fans and loyal supporters deserve to know. We deserve the truth. We have defended you, Curlin and Rachel against many naysayers and never lost faith.

So, Mr. Jackson, was it a loss of faith and ultimately a duck, that led to Rachel's premature retirement? Or, was it an injury that stole away the horse who was the hero to so many?

Yours Truly,

Laura Pugh


  1. The word on the street is that she had a suspensory that hasn't been right for a while.

  2. Anon,

    I heard from a reliable sorce that it was not an injury. I'm betting there are many rumors flying around right now. I would like to know which is true, though I doubt this letter would get an answer.

  3. Jess Jackson owes all us fans an explanation as to why he pulled the plug on Rachel in the middle of her campaign. That was one of the most inconsiderate acts I've seen an owner perform in a very long time.

  4. Brian,

    I agree. Normally i don't think anything is owed to a fan by an owner or trainer, but to pull her plug when she was seemingly sitting on a big race, after two outstanding bullet works, and after one hell of a race in the PE? I don't get it the timing and everything was off. I would love to hear the truth. Was it an injury or did he simply lose faith and duck?

  5. Wow, great letter, I hope we all get the answer to your questions. I still think she would have a big chance to win the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic.

  6. Mike,

    Thank you very much. I hope, too that we somehow get some answers, because I am beyond aggrevated at this, but am actually in a way angry. Not at her retirement, but at how and when she was retired. She was steadily getting better and better, and looked like she was sitting on a huge race. I personally think she would've decimated the Beldame field and won the JCGC pretty handily after watching those races this weekend.

    I think she would've dominated the Distaff, and had she won the Gold Cup like i think she would've, been in with great shot at the Classic. If they are concealing an injury then they should admit it. It would explain, to an extent, her losses and her retirement. If she is sound, then this was a duck, plain and simple. And RA deserves better than to go out like that.

  7. This was great. I completely agree with every word you said!

  8. Wow, Thanks Sarah. I was not expect this many people to agree, but agreement is good, lol.

  9. Very nice LDP ... I am with you in eagerly awaiting answers. I wonder when they will come.

  10. LDP, I really am sorry that JJ did this to her fans so abruptly. It wasnt the way to do you fans of hers. I rewatched the PE and with out a doubt I can tell you RA would have aced the Beldame. Then she could have went on to the BCL or went out a winner in the Beldame. I hope that you fans of hers will one day get a straight and honest answer, but who knows with JJ. HE is so secretive about his actions.

    I hope its nothing health wise to her, I thought that maybe he just wanted to hurry and rush her to the breeding shed, but then, I thought, Well , he could have still let her went out a winner. Who knows, maybe one day , the gag order will be lifted and someone will talk.

  11. This is really surprising. I did not expect the amount of agreement I'm getting for this. It is a very pleasant surprise, and I thank you all.

    Brian Z,

    I wonder if we will ever get a true and honest answer. JJ was great during Curlin's campaign. Open, not afraid of anything, but w/ RA it's been differnet. He started by never annoucing where she was pointing until the last moment, then now, nothing he has done has not attractions some suspision.


    As I said I'm not angry she was retired, more of how. He ripped the rug out from everyone one, including her trainer, exercise rider and jockey, I think. Personally, I don't think it was an injury, I think it was a lack of faith, I just want to hear it.

    I believe she would've romped in the Beldame, and with the way the Gold Cup set up, she would've won that w/o much effort too. Too bad we will never be able to see.

  12. My heart was truly broken when I got the word they were retiring Rachel. I do honestly think it was the right thing to do. I am devastated, but I want Rachel to be happy & healthy. I do have my feelings as to why she is retired, but Mr. Jackson and Steve are the only ones who know the real truth.

    Great job on the letter!

  13. Luvbarbaro,

    Maybe retirement was right, but I would like to know why. The timing was so off, if he was to do it, why not in the first couple of weeks after the PE. That, IMO would be more understandable, than after 2 bullet works and days before the race.

    Thank you for the compliment :)

  14. LDP,

    I don't honestly think any Rachel fan could possibly disagree with what you've written. I was with you in wanting her to run in the Gold Cup and if they didn't have the courage for that, the Beldame at least. She certainly would have won the Beldame and most possibly the Gold Cup. Aside from a minor injury it seems as if Mr. Jackson may have been afraid of another loss damaging her reputation. It's funny how the general public feeling toward Rachel was to retire her, her reputation is suffering, etc., but no one seem to feel that way over Curlin's losses. At least that I remember.

  15. Great letter...hope we receive the answers. Agree completely w/those who believe RA would have won the Beldame or JC Gold Cup last weekend at Belmont...we were there, and I was surprised at the very slow fractions. RA would have gone wire to wire perhaps in either of those races. Was hoping JJ would pull a "Jerry Moss"...announce retirement and then bring her back for one last race....perhaps the BC Classic? Why not? I think she can get the 1 1/4 mile, and she has much more speed than most any other horse except for Quality Road. JJ would be the "hero", finally getting Z and RA to show their stuff in the same race!! I'm still hoping for it to happen. No matter what happens in the BC, RA will always be remembered for her unbelievable campaign in 2009.......she is truly one for the ages....she is Rachel Alexandra the GREAT!

  16. Wow, guys thanks for all the comments and compliments.


    Some don't think an answer is owed, and I personally wouldn't had the retirement not been so ill timed. The reason Curlin was not pushed to be retired, IMO is that his losses were on other surfaces and the Zenyatta mania was not quite there yet.

    I. Davis.

    I too hope for him to take her out of retirement and be the hero, however the chances of that are slim to none. I think away from Saratoga she would relish 10 furlongs and still be very competitive against the males. But as I've said many times, we will never know now.

  17. Great letter, thank you. We have all been asking the same things. Facebook fans have gone 'round and 'round about this 100 times. After this weekend's races, alot of folks who were at peace with the decision, now felt downright angry. She deserved to go out with a win, and this weekend, she would'ave had it. It was like slamming the door in someone's face. This one really hurt. I suppose it was because there was nothing to indicate that it was time, in fact, she was showing us that she just needed more time and each race was getting better and better. She would have come back this year and slammed the door at the breeders cup, I feel that in my heart. The whole campaign was bizarre. But thanks, you made me feel better just by putting it out there. I don't suppose you'll get an answer, but hey, thanks for trying!

  18. LDP, I think they need to have a parading for RA retiring, I dont think the BC races on November 5 or 6 is the time to do it. I believe the fans would be upset with her connections because she wasnt in the BC races when we all feel like she should be. He needs to do it before or after . Knowing JJ, he may just send her off quietly because he knows people want answers. What do you think? Dont you agree that if they parade her at in the BC races, fans are going to be upset that she isnt in them? especially, due to her great workouts and in good health according to Blasi?

  19. Lisa,

    This one did hurt. Curlin, i expected his retirement. He was a tired horse who had been tested and had given everything he had, for that year at least. It was a good time despite not going out on a winning note. RA was far from done. She was getting better w/ each race and i think the PE set her up very well for either Beldame or JCGC. I feel she would've stolen the spotlight from Zenyatta had she been allowed to race through the Cup, not saying anything against Zen.


    I would like to see a parade. When, is irrelavent to me. CD is the sight of some of her most dominating victories, so I do think it should be held there. Or at Monmouth. I would say parade her the day after the BC, on Sunday. I'm sure those who planned to stay the weekend at KY would be happy to come out on Sunday to send her off. It would be a great ending to a great weekend.

  20. LDP, I agree with you about having her parading on Sunday. That would be perfect. I wish Hal Wiggins would show up to see her.

  21. Doubtful they would bring her out when everyone has already headed out from the BC. Previous displays of Curlin and Rachel were when it would be in the public eye. Some of them a lot of horsemen didn't exactly appreciate. Trying to take the focus away from the day.

    Your sources, you have sources inside the game? This mare hasn't been right all year.
    Answers, something you will never get from Jess. He feels his statement was sufficient. Maybe just take a look at Jess's presence or lack thereof this year.

  22. Anon,

    Yes my "sources" and yes that source is in the game. Somebody was guessing at her being injured, saying she was limping and they promptly told them that was incorrect. If they want to come out and say something I will let them, but i'm not going to name them. You can choose to believe me or not.

    On heading out, normally if I go for a trip I stay the weekend, not just Friday and Saturday and leave the next day. People I know normally do the same thing. You let them know RA is going to have her final time on the track I seriously doubt people would not come out for her.

  23. Have you ever been to the Breeders Cup?

    Most Fans don't stay beyond Saturday, most locals are only there for the splash and pizazz.

    CD is a ghost town the days following big races, if you've ever even been there?

    You know people inside the game? I really seriously doubt that after reading your background and a bunch of your blogs. Brian Zipse is NOT inside the game, nor is Jason S or any other writer, blogger or handicapper. Someone who has horses but not at the uppermost level has no clue what goes on with the likes of the Jacksons, Mosses, Pletchers, Lukases, Zitos, Bafferts, Pegrams etc of the racing world.

  24. One other thing. Not to try and put you down, but you mentioned you go to the track for your Birthday, I wouldn't exactly say you are a seasoned race tracker or veteran.

  25. Anon,

    I never said that made me a veteran, but that does not mean I can't have an opinion. My lack of "on track" experience doesn't seem to matter to others who know there way around the track. Your guesses on my sources are wrong, they are not writers, bloggers or handicappers.

    CD may be a ghost town after a normal years, but I doubt nobody would show up if RA was being sent off.

  26. Most of the people who show up for the Breeders Cup have traveled and they actually do leave the next morning. They will come in for events before the racing days but will usually hightail it the day after. Used to be they didn't even have racing the day after the BC or other big racing days like the Derby, don't.

    I think what Anon was saying is that someone said the word on the street or backside is that Rachel isn't 100% healthy. That is usually what precipitates retirement. Truthfully she wasn't running her best after two races, her heart definitely wasn't in it even back in April. This camp is very secretive and getting moreso as Jess ages and rumors are he isn't in tip top shape himself. He didn't see her run in person once this year, seems odd doesn't it? Fact is he hasn't been at the track in months that I know of.
    IF you do know someone at this level of the game, then you know that more than just one person thinks she came out of the work with a nagging issue. Not to speak for others but I think that's what they are saying. You are disputing what is going on in the game without any substantiative information, like you said just your opinion.
    I'm not sure how many fans aren't just so disgusted with the handling of the mare that they wouldn't get that excited. Now if after last year? A great turnout. Jess is known for trying to steal the spotlight so this whole thing is very strange.

  27. Jim, my info does come from a reliable sorce in this instance. Most of the people I talk to would say it unless they knew for a fact it wasn't true.

    Most people on racing would turn out for her. I've put the same sugestion on other blogs and they like it. They love HER and would be willing to send her off even with her mismanagment this year.